Sunday, October 17, 2010

Music: Every mother's son

When Rufus Wainwright came to town for PIAF 2008, the great disappointment was the cancellation of his opening act; his mother and aunt, the evanescent Kate and Anna McGarrigle. Little did we know Kate was suffering the effects of the cancer to which she succumbed in January this year. This time it was Rufus who cancelled Australian dates, to be with her in the last days.
Rufus returns to the Perth Concert Hall on the back of his recently-released All Days are Nights: Songs for Lulu, an elegiac collection of songs in which the spirit of Kate is always present.
As well as Rufus, Kate and Anna's work, the Wainwright and McGarrigle clan's phenomenal collection of varied and engrossing music over nearly 40 years includes the arch observations of (sometimes estranged) dad Loudon Wainwright III and the insinuating voice of sister Martha. Coming up fast behind them is Rufus and Martha's half-sister Lucy, daughter of Loudon and Suzzy Roche who, along with her sisters Magge and Terri... and so on!
A couple of years back Lesley and I saw Rufus's massive star turn in front of 15,000 at the Hollywood Bowl, recreating Judy Garland's famous 1961 concert. The following night we caught his sister's captivating performance, from almost within touching distance, at a tiny cafe down the road from the Bowl. On both occasions their mother, looking diminished but obviously proud of her son's success and her daughter's talent, joined them for a couple of numbers. It was a privilege, after all these years, to see a woman we're admired so much for so long in two such different circumstances. We miss her.

Here's a lovely appreciation of Kate from The New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg, from which you can launch into other fine pieces.

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